Due to the popularity of television crime dramas, most people are familiar with depictions of the first contact between an officer and motorist during the initial stages of a DWI investigation. This preliminary verbal exchange and the officer’s observations of the DWI impairment signs exhibited by the motorist often dramatically impact these cases.
Why Police Need DWI Impairment Signs as Evidence
In order to commence an investigation and extend the stop, the officer must observe DWI impairment signs that indicate the driver is intoxicated.
If the officer detains the motorist and conducts a DWI investigation without sufficient evidence of driving under the influence, all of the evidence uncovered during the stop may be subject to suppression as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” This legal doctrine provides that any evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search or seizure is subject to exclusion at trial.
Motorists need to understand that the officer’s observations and information gathered during the initial stop can impact the admissibility of all evidence conducted during a DWI investigation.
One of our DWI defense attorneys might seek to have all of the evidence gathered during a DWI investigation suppressed, including officer observations, chemical testing of blood, and field sobriety testing, if the officer lacked sufficient evidence to extend the stop to conduct roadside sobriety testing.
Tips on What to Say and Do (or Not) If Pulled Over for DWI
In a misguided attempt to avoid arrest, motorists frequently provide an officer with information that helps the officer justify a DWI investigation. The best alternative is to provide brief and concise answers that do not volunteer damaging information.
A police officer will try to justify extending the stop to conduct Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and a preliminary breath test (PBT) because he does not want to risk allowing you go on your away only to have you cause an accident. In other words, you typically cannot talk your way out of a DWI arrest.
Drivers should never answer questions about whether you have been drinking. If you are asked these types of questions, you could simply indicate you are uncomfortable talking to the officer without your attorney and politely ask if you are free to leave.
If you do not provide the officer with a reason to conduct further investigation with your answers or other DWI impairment signs, the officer might rely on observations of you and/or items in plain view in your vehicle.
Armed with this knowledge, you should avoid driving around with empty beer cans or open liquor bottles in your vehicle. Any alcohol that is open should be stored in the trunk if your vehicle where it is not accessible to you while you are driving.
While the officer might not have a legal basis to search your person or vehicle during a routine traffic stop, you could provide that basis by leaving open alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia in plain view within the passenger compartment of your vehicle.
Defense Strategies for Common DWI Impairment Signs
Motorists arrested for DWI need to understand that the standard observations an officer typically includes in a their investigation report on the witnessed DWI impairments signs is very subjective.
The officer will usually refer to “glassy, bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath, and slurred speech”. The officer has no idea what your eyes look like normally. Many people suffer from dry eyes, allergies, hay fever, and other conditions that make one’s eyes look indistinguishable from someone who is driving under the influence of alcohol.
The claim that a driver emitted the “odor of alcohol” also constitutes unreliable evidence. Alcohol has no odor. What most people associate with the smell of alcohol include the other ingredients that comprise an alcoholic beverage. If you have been drinking near beer with no alcohol content, the odor will be indistinguishable from beer with alcohol.
The issue of slurred speech also can be the product of a range of causes other than the consumption of alcoholic beverages. The officer does not know the way you normally sound when you talk. Further, those suffering an episode of hypoglycemia or other physical impairments other than intoxication may have slurred speech.
If you stick to short concise answers, the issue of slurred speech should not be an issue in any event. Plus, any admission to even a sip of alcohol can be the basis to extend the interaction. It gives the officer reason to “check to see if you are okay to drive.”
Lets say you had 4 beers over the last couple hours, but instead lie and say you have only had 1 beer. According to the officer, they both count the same. Any admission allows the officer to get you out of the car and ask you to perform and complete the field sobriety tests.
The admission can also be enough for an officer to go directly to a PBT breath test.
In summary, keep your generic answers short and concise, and never admit to drinking prior to driving. Minimizing how much you drank is not helpful, it hurts just the same as if you told the officer the truth.
Seek Legal Advice Now
Outlining the DWI impairment signs most often used by police to build their case and the potential defense strategies against each demonstrates the complexity of these cases and how critical it is to have a top-notch lawyer on your side.
If you have been arrested for DWI in the Twin Cities or surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota DWI defense attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible.
The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.